Camper claims second
The crew of Camper survived heinous sea conditions overnight to reach Cape Town's Table Bay to take second place in leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race. The Emirates Team New Zealand crew led by Australian Chris Nicholson crossed the finish line at 10:48:04 UTC after 21 days, 21 hours, 48 minutes and 4 seconds at sea.
With their maroon VO70 tied up in Cape Town, Chris Nicholson spoke of the defining moment of their leg when after exiting the Mediterranean initially they seemed to be following Groupama down the African coast: “Everyone was trying to get to the coast and we were getting there nicely, but it was the wrong call. It's been 20 days playing catch-up from that decision. We weren't able to make up that deficit. We would have loved to have been head to head with Telefónica and Puma.
Nicholson added that it was a tough leg: "The conditions were pretty rough as you can see with all damage from the boats. We handled it well, we're here in second and so that's a good result.”
Co-skipper Stu Bannatyne added: “It's very nice to be in Cape Town finally. It felt like a very long leg. We got a podium result so we are very happy. Last night we backed off once Telefónica had finished, with winds between 35 and 40 knots. We nursed it in last night as there was no point pushing at that point.”
Camper’s fortunes on this opening leg were mixed. After leading the six boat fleet in a slick start and out through the Straits of Gibraltar, they paid a high price for the tactical dilemma early on day three as the fleet headed out into the Atlantic. After following Groupama, on day four, Nicholson decided to sacrifice miles gained towards the mark and headed the red and white boat offshore again in pursuit of Puma and Telefónica.
This proved to be an expensive decision - one from which the team never really recovered. By 2200 UTC on day five, Camper was 105 miles behind in last place.
The losses grww as the team struggled to get out to the west. The lowest point was early on day seven, when they had dropped back to 334 nm behind the leader, but from 2200 UTC that night, their fortunes changed, clawing back 56 miles. The boat was finally back on track and taking the course the crew had wanted.
On day nine as Groupama began to pay the price severely for their African holiday, Camper moved up to third place and rounded the island of Fernando de Noronha on day 13, 126 nm behind Puma. On the fateful day that Puma dismasted, the Kiwi-crewed VO70 had closed the gap to 110 nm.
The crew had their feet firmly on the pedal and were pushing the boat to her limits but on day 18 this took its toll, when South African bowman Mike Pammenter was washed down the deck, smashing his face against the shrouds. It was a stern reminder of just how dangerous and on the edge this race can be. His face stitched up, minus a front tooth, Pammenter was soon back on deck and Camper continued at breakneck speed towards Cape Town. She was now hot on the heels of leg leader Telefónica 94 nm behind.
However in the closing stages of the leg, the weather conditions benefitted the leader and Camper was further north on the front that would take them east, and were unable to gain the same benefit from it as Telefónica managed.
Approaching Cape Town, the crew of the maroon VO70 throttled back overnight in mountainous seas with winds gusting to 35 knots, but once daylight broke, they were back up to speed and screamed across the finish to finished Leg 1 over 200 nm and 16 hours behind Telefonica. However from their second place on this leg, Camper take 25 points, adding to their four points from their third-place finish in the Iberdrola In-Port Race in Alicante. They are now second overall on the Volvo Ocean Race leaderboard with 29 points – two behind Team Telefónica.
The highlight for Camper was their run of 554.16 nautical miles in the 24 hour period up to 1755 UTC on 24 November. That will almost certainly make them the winner of the IWC Speed Record Challenge for Leg 1.
Groupama is expected to finish on Tuesday. She is currently 534 nm behind and was averaging 21 knots at the time of Camper’s finish.
Photos by Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race
Photos by Paul Todd/Volvo Ocean Race